How to virtualise and backup your wallet

Screenshot of iPhone showing image of bank card

Store card images in a photo album on your phone as a backup and for reference when the real card's not handy

You’ve got lots of important cards in your wallet – credit cards, payment cards etc.  You want to make sure they’re handy when you need them, and you don’t want to lose them.  No doubt you’ve also got lots more cards you seldom need (e.g. membership cards, discount cards) – so you either cram them into your wallet on the off-chance you’ll need them, or you don’t bother carrying them and sometime wish you had.  Either way – not ideal.  Increasingly, if you’re anything like me, cards are used as often for online payments as physical payments – so you can often get away with knowing the information printed on the card, rather than needing the card itself.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could have all your card information handy without having all your cards in your wallet (or, in fact, carrying any at all)?  And wouldn’t it be great if you had a backup of your wallet contents, so if you do ever lose it you know which cards to cancel?  How?

Make a photo album containing pictures of each of your cards, and carry it on your smartphone.

It’s easiest to use a scanner to capture the images of each card, but you could use a camera instead.  I scanned both sides of each card at 300dpi, which resulted in card images approx 1,000 pixels wide by 650 pixels high.   I used GIMP (the open source image manipulator) to combine the front and back images for each card into a single image file 1,050 pixels wide by 1,400 pixels high. Then I saved these in a photo folder that automatically syncs with my iPhone.  Job done.  30-or-so cards scanned front and back in well under an hour (I scanned several at a time).  And I think this is secure enough for me, because the PIN protection on my phone kicks in automatically after a handful of minutes.  If only my real wallet were PIN-protected and could be remotely wiped like my iPhone!

I still need to carry around my essential day-to-day cards in my wallet, but I can cut the clutter by leaving many at home.  Next time I need to prove my AA breakdown membership, prove my National Trust membership or order something online when my wallet’s not handy, I can just reach for my phone, pop in my PIN, eyeball the right card in the photo album and click it to read the details.  I’m not planning on losing my wallet, but if (when?) I ever do, sorting that out should be a lot easier too.

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